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Business interest in unified communications (UC) tools is not new, but with the rise of improved cloud computing solutions, many organizations are finding that the potential for such services is still largely untapped. With the ability to tie together systems that go far beyond just phone lines – today’s UC solutions can incorporate tools such as videoconferencing, interactive white boards, mobile functionality, document management and more – UC can enable an unprecedented level of collaboration.
“We now have a deeply rich pool of UC services to bring to bear and both cloud computing and mobility have a leading role to play in terms of how the next wave is played out,” Cloud Pro contributor Adrian Bridgwater wrote in a recent column.
Bridgwater highlighted the ways the cloud is changing businesses by shifting work away from a physical location and turning the focus toward the activities of performing a job. He noted the insights of one Canadian UC expert, who explained that companies are hitting a wall in collaborative ability when it comes to telecommunications. While many business applications are being shared in the cloud, adoption of telephony or UC applications lags behind.
If businesses wish to see the full benefits of either cloud or UC, they may need to align their strategies for the two. Previewing his forthcoming keynote talk at London’s Unified Communications Expo, Gartner Research Vice President Steve Blood suggested that IT departments need to make the case for UC as part of an overall workplace transformationthat emphasizes collaborative cloud applications. The goal of a UC adoption should not just be cost savings, but rather a strategic rethinking of business processes that prioritizes sharing among applications.
“You have to link innovation with unified communications, and that’s where I plan to start,” Blood said. “We know we can do collaboration without UC, because we’ve always been doing it. The real issue is: are we really achieving UC if we’re not using it to collaborate? UC can offer businesses a host of benefits, but they must take a strategic approach to truly reap the rewards.”
Implementing an effective UC solution
While there are a number of providers that offer basic UC functions as essentially a “plug and play” service, organizations need to think of UC as more than simply a glorified PBX system, Bridgwater explained. Using a provider that offers little more than a hosted phone solution will not allow businesses to tap into the advanced benefits of cloud collaboration. Additionally, moving to cloud services inevitably raises data protection questions, particularly if storage management is involved. To avoid these issues, businesses should take the time to find a solution that fully addresses their needs.
By working closely with a managed service provider or IT consulting firm, businesses can develop a plan that allows them to implement UC services in a truly strategic fashion. Through an examination of business processes and existing collaboration tools, organizations can assess their specific UC needs and ensure their solution matches their unique environment.